How To Prepare Yourself For Taking On New Design Clients

Taking on new clients can be a dream for fresh freelancers… or a dreaded endeavour for the inexperienced.

You don’t know your worth, your clients’ expectations or even what your edge on the competition is. It’s very easy to undervalue yourself when you’re first starting out!

But what if you knew what to ask these higher-paying clients? Would you still be intimidated by taking on higher-paying work—work that feeds you, while building your dream portfolio?

I’m going to share how I started asserting my worth as an artist and exactly what to cover with your new client to give them the best product possible!

Establish a budget upfront!

I ask for their budget in the same motion as about their idea, but that’ll take practice. Asking for their budget upfront establishes your worth and asserts that you expect proper compensation. You then showcase what you can provide for them based on this budget, not based on their expectations—that’s where you get into abusive territory.

Clients have grand visions, sometimes expecting way too much. You need to establish boundaries with who you’re working with right away—because ultimately you are working with them, not for them—ensuring your time isn’t abused. You don’t revise things half a dozen times for no extra compensation.

To avoid any future confusion or altercations with new clients, I religiously go through these questions to get a full picture of my clients needs and expectations, the scope of the project and how much time you’re devoting to the project. An individual or brand with a logo budget of $200 will not receive the same product as one with a budget of $1000, for example (and yes you can make that much for one licensing deal, just not on Fivver).

Why waste time doing this? Why can’t you just start getting paid right now on Upwork or Fivver?

Well, there’s nothing stopping you from doing that, but if you want a sustainable income that pays you what you’re worth as a craftsman you need a niche group of regular clientele that will be fanatical about everything you say (and sell)!

Viewing this intimate conversation about your clients passions (and ultimately their project) as a waste of time means you’re probably reading the wrong blog and should just go scavenge across abusive job-boards that undercut the value of every other freelance worker out there then just go on ahead and “make that bank”.

But if you want to get paid by people who value your work and will hire you over and over again—and recommend you for more even more dream projects—then you need to read this!

Establish A Budget With New Clients Upfront With These 8 Questions:

  1. What is the Company/Product/Service name to be used in the logo/branding?
    • This may seem silly, but you wouldn’t believe how often I’m brought onto a project thinking it was a rebranding job and found out it’s for a new/different/offshoot brand—wasting my notes and sketches, as well as their time.
  2. What is your Tag line (if any)?
    • Whether or not you need this for the design, it will give you a better picture of what your client’s message is
  3. What are you selling?
    • Get them to tell you as much about their product or service
    • What is the message they’re trying to convey with your work?
  4. Who are you selling to?
    • Describe the audience you’re targeting as best as possible.
    • Dig deeper (age, gender, interests, income, geography, etc. are only the basics)
  5. How do you want to be known in your industry and when compared to your competitors?
    • Competitors, fellow creatives or whatever you wish to call them, you are comparing both aesthetic and ethos as well as products and content.
    • Where are they at vs. where they want to be and how your work will get them there. Getting them to show you their “Dream Aesthetic” and favourite brands/pages from social media is usually the easiest way to involve clients in this part of the conversation.
  6. Do you have an idea of what you want? If so, describe your visions in as much or as little detail as you’d like.
    • Sometimes less is more here. Setting your boundaries early on is important and you have the right to know what you’re being hired for. In most cases, you’ll have already told them your niche or they have approached you because of your existing work (or even by recommendation from a fan!)
  7. Are you currently working with any time constraints? Ideally, how soon would you like to have your project completed?
    • This is another step where you need to set boundaries for yourself. If you’re having trouble keeping up, be transparent about your current work-load and be honest about how quickly you can complete a project.
  8. What is your budget?
    • The burning question that no artist has the answer for. I’m not going to pretend to know how much a human is worth, but I know how much money I need to make to pay these pesky bills: start there.
    • Talking about money is difficult for millennials. It’s okay to talk about money.
    • Feeling your skills should be compensated properly is not a crime. Don’t allow them to devalue your worth or make you feel you’re being unreasonable.
    • If you can’t justify the cost of your work by breaking it down for your client, you’re still too unclear on your self-worth and just might be over-selling yourself if you’re constantly being rejected at the “final sell”.

It can be a scary to take on new things. Just remember this for your next call on Zoom:

We didn’t become self-employed only to go broke.

We did it to become self-sustainable—to cope with chronic pain and illness, find employment as marginalized folks, to survive in tough times—while still doing something that breathes life back into us, rather than drain us.

If you produce a variety of content, you need to establish your niche and specialties for them right away—to set the boundaries in this new relationship at the beginning—not half-way through, when you realize you’re no longer working on what you signed up for. Unlike a romantic relationship, you’ve (hopefully) established some sort of written agreement via (at minimum) a paid invoice.

Whether you’re still navigating where you fit in within your field or are geared up to grab the new opportunity right now, you can download this unique and professional questionnaire I designed: print it off for your next new client here!

If you would like more coverage on drafting an invoice and red-flags freelancers should look out for on job-board websites, let me know by commenting on this post!

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

Questions To Ask Yourself When Trying To Nail Down Your Niche + Why You Need To Envision Your Success

Do you ever feel lost in what you’re doing?

Do you have trouble remembering the bigger picture?

As artists and creative people, it can be easy to forget why we began creating in the first place.

It can so easily feel like you’re talking into the vacuum of space, posting all your hard work into a black hole.

So how you do get noticed?

You need “a thing”, or a niche.

Something important to us as human beings is being good at something. We all like to feel like we have ‘our thing’. Not only does defining your niche make you more memorable as a creator, but it also makes your work feel more filling—your heart has to be in it for it to work.

For us to have ‘our thing’ we kind of have to make it up on our own. 

Whether that’s your middle school awards or that class in college that totally changed your life, you’ve found your thing.

When trying to compete in the rat-race of social media popularity, gaining commissions, and finding new clients—we often lose sight of ‘our thing’, and which work made us happy to begin with.

You work hard, but you don’t know where you want to go with your art or business.

Whenever I’m feeling this way (because we all do from time to time), I always go through the same exercise that I’m going to share with you right now!

  • What do you do and why? 
  • How do you do it? 
  • What’s your method and why do you do it that way? 

That’s it? Almost.

Envisioning your future can be the simplest exercise for self-discovery.

The importance of having a vision of your future:

  1. To keep you focused on a plan
  2. To keep you motivated towards your goals
  3. To master your skillset—narrowing down to one niche to build capitol to support your plan

What that might look like:

I wanted to share an expert of my Future Vision as an example of what measures you should focus on as a newbie, rather than looking at vanity metrics and low-ROI tasks.

So, here is part of my personal Future Vision from 2017—a pinnacle point in my life, when I was finishing school and planning to become self-employed:

At 28 I picture my life modern, but simple. With a dog and my own patch of grass, living in a smart home and tending a greenhouse. Where we live is only filled with what we need and love. I'm happy and healthy. 
My dreams of being a self-employed artist are a reality. I have a mildly successful blog I write and a podcast I do every month. I am finally thrilled to be living and have built better positive thinking techniques. I have healthy habits and meditate every day. I do yoga and jog to stay healthy and active. I eat the best foods for my body with lots of fresh greens and nuts. 
I feel great in the skin I'm in and only wear what is for me. I want to tread my own path in life and pursue my passions. I focus my energy on producing rather than consuming, being more conscious of whats going into my body, and making my body move more. To spend more time and effort on experiences than possessions- 
It has made me so humble and grateful to have kept this life.

14 Questions To Guide You Towards Your Niche + Vision

  1. What are my strengths? What am I good at?
  2. What do people come to me for advice or help with?
  3. What do I get excited or passionate about?
  4. Who are the most important people in my life and why?
  5. What do I need (to do) to feel my best?
  6. Where is the majority of my energy and attention been going lately?
  7. What lessons have I learned in the past 3 months? 6 months? Year?
  8. List my recent wins & failures.
  9. What would I do if I knew I could not fail?
  10. If I had all the money in the world, what would I do?
  11. How would I like to give back or help others?
  12. What drives me & what do I hunger for?
  13. What do I need more of in my life?
  14. What are my values & how do I live out those values in my own life?

I urge you to pull out your journal, day-planner, notes app, or whatever it is you use to record your ideas and get started on answering these questions! I promise you that this exercise will without a doubt help you refine your niche and overall vision for your life and art business.

If you need some extra reading, check out my other post on finding your niche, as well as advice on getting started as an online seller, and tips for marketing your creative business right now!

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

My Top 10 Free Apps I Actually Use For My Online Art Business

These 10 apps will help you nail your next art project, keep on top of your clients, and build your social media presence!

I’ve been using an iPad Pro since I began working for myself, back in 2016. It was the first investment I had ever made in my business, ever. It was a big deal!

There were a lot of things I needed out out one device and couldn’t spend so much. I had limited experience with technology use and had an aversion to the big ol’ Apple Corp.

The iPad Pro has become my best artist tool and the most used technology in my office, even to this day.  

I’m here to help you get the most out of your Tablet experience, artist-to-artist, for free.

I’ve created a list of my favourite free iPad Pro apps to help artists and small creative online businesses.

These apps are easy to incorporate into your art, design, or online business practices. There is a learning curve, but they’re not too tricky to get a handle on. Once you get the hang of using these, you’ll be glad you did!

Here are my 10 favourite free apps I actually use for my online art business!

  • Adobe Draw (Art + Design) — A free vector-drawing app I have been using for years, all you need is a free account! I prefer using Adobe Draw over Fresco for certain projects because of its ability to import directly to Illustrator on my desktop.
  • Adobe Spark Post (Art + Design) — Perfect for quickly planning out design ideas for social media posts, blog covers, headings and footers, and much more!
  • Canva (Art + Design) — My absolute favourite design tool, Canva’s free tools and resources are more than enough to beef up your branding and get on your social media game! You can save pallets and fonts to your brand profile to keep your posts looking consistently beautiful and on-brand.
  • Sell on Etsy App (Business + Productivity) — If you haven’t already, check out my post about why I love Etsy as my e-commerce platform right here!
  • 2do (Business + Productivity) — The only to-do list you will ever need!
  • Hootsuite (Business + Productivity) — The best FREE social media scheduling tool out there, I’ve tried so many and now that Hoot covers Instagram, I’m all-in!
  • Photoshop Mix (Art + Design)Easy photo-editing on-the-go? Yes please! I also love using this for the photos I use in my Etsy shop listings.
  • Protonmail (Business + Productivity)You need to stop using Google, right now! I keep my clients’ information safe by using this encrypted email service for my business (and personal) emails. This means no one, not even Protonmail, can read my confidential emails!
  • Toggl (Business + Productivity)You need this for easy, detailed time-tracking! Toggl sends you a report at the end of each week, making invoicing clients accurately way easier.
  • Adobe Capture (Art + Design) — Quickly creates colour pallets, brushes, fonts, and shapes from real-life photographs!

As soon as you’re done reading this: download some of these apps, try them out, and tell me what you think. Comment which of these apps are your favourite, and why! I would love to know.

Set effective goals for the new year - Pinterest Graphic
Download your 6 free journal prompts printable for dominating your New Years’ resolutions at TheArtistJournal.ca

In the meantime, I urge you to read about how to make people care about your art and how to maximize your time creating in your studio in preparation for the New Year. You can also download this journalling prompt sheet, absolutely free, to get a head-start on 2020!

Until next time,

-J

How To Find Your Art Niche And Why You Need One To Rock Your Business This Year

Why You Need The Right Niche Pinterest Title Card
Finding a niche is easier said than done. I’m going to give you some tips on where to look for your niche interests and talents, as well as some journalling (or deep thinking) prompts to help you get in the right mindsetFinding a niche is easier said than done. I’m going to give you some tips on where to look for your niche interests and talents, as well as some journalling (or deep thinking) prompts to help you get in the right mindset. @ The Artist Journal (DOT) CA

Starting out — whether you’re an artist, writer, or any creator — having the right niche is the most important thing to think about. Once you find your niche everything will begin to fall into place and you’ll have a reference point for consistent decision making for your art business.

Picking a niche is no small task. If you pick the wrong one, no matter how hard you work in the future it isn’t likely you’ll be successful.

Finding a niche is easier said than done. I’m going to give you some tips on where to look for your niche interests and talents, as well as some journalling (or deep thinking) prompts to help you get in the right mindset.

Choosing the wrong niche in the beginning can kill your project before you even start.

The easiest place to start looking is your social media accounts.

  • Look at your mutuals and favourites on social media; they can often help narrow down your field of expertise.
  • Look at who is commenting on your stuff; they’re your quality, engaged audience you want to keep around.
  • Create similar, but interesting content to get people to scroll, click through, or read longer.
  • Look at social media selling platforms (like facebook marketplace, fivver, and kijiji) to start looking for what other people are looking for if you can’t define your own work.
Easy Ways To Find Your Niche Pinterest Title Card

Look especially at your mutuals, most popular posts, favourite brands/artists, and general popularity of what you have done in the past. This can help narrow down your interests and even your style if that’s something you’re struggling with.

Don’t forget about your comments sections! Every platform has a place for people to leave comments. Read every one and actually listen to them. Try to respond to them all in quality. These are your most engaged audience and they’re actively looking at your stuff and want to support you!

Where is the need for you?

What do people come to you for? What do they need your advice on? This indicates what people think you’re knowledgable in; odds are you’ve given them helpful advice in the past and you may actually know what you’re talking about.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

What do you offer that every other artist can’t?

This could be something as simple as your style, something that makes you memorable, or something that helps people: combining these would be ideal.

Look at your favourite reading materials and genres of writing and dig deeper into your interests:

  • If all you read are life-hacks on Pinterest, odds are you have an interest in creative problem solving and enrichment.
  • If you scroll through facebook fuming about the fake news, then maybe you’re passionate about social commentary.

The beauty of the Internet is there’s a niche market for everything, and if you can focus on it, you can build a sustainable and viable business of it.

Michelle Phan, pioneering Beauty YouTuber and Makeup Entrepreneur

Answer the Three W’s

Who are you?

What are you trying to accomplish?

Why do you want this?

If you can’t answer these questions, you’ll need to put some more effort into finding what people need that you can offer. Remember, who is paying you is who comes first. Think of how you can best help or satisfy those people that support you most without losing your integrity.

Start-Making-Life-Work-for-You Title Card
Read more at The Artist Journal .CA

I hope all of this was enough to set you on the right path to finding your specialty. Confused about what I wanted for so long, I had never found my specialty.

I didn’t figure out my niche and my work suffered for it, for much longer than I would like to admit. I didn’t think I needed one and it was leading to a string of disappointing work.

If you can relate, go read about my creative journey and how I got here. I talk about where I’m coming from and why I’m here for you. I also want to hear how opening your Etsy shop has been going in the comments!

Until next time,

Artist Journal Initials circle logo
The Artist Journal initials blog logo

-Joey @ The A/J

The Truth About How I Started An Online Art Business What You Should Know Before Getting Started

In the beginning…

I was a stable and reliable worker my entire educational career. I went to school full time, volunteered 15 hours per week on campus, and had two separate tutoring gigs going while never missing an appointment.

These days, it can take all my effort to be on time for a single meeting with a client and I’m sure you can relate to this.

My art career started when I was a college drop-out and totally unemployed for almost 7 weeks. I had spent the previous 8 months jumping from job-to-job. Whether it be seasonal work for months or my single day working at a call centre (which is a whole other story), nothing was working.

I couldn’t believe I was an unemployed college drop-out struggling to pay my bills every month.

Why can’t I commit to my work? How do I learn to love what I do? Do these questions sound familiar to you?

I didn’t seem to be the only one with this problem. When I first began looking at self-employment in 2016, my generation had the highest unemployment rate in recent history (at a whopping 53%).

The real cause was what I was working on. I realized there wasn’t a way to change how to think and feel about work fast enough to start paying my bills for the long-term.

Photo by DJ Johnson on Unsplash

The first step I took was to change my work, not my attitude.

Repeating my mistakes was the problem. Mistakes I didn’t know I was making. I wasn’t playing to my strengths. Rather, I was fighting to overcome my weaknesses every day because “that’s just how it is”.

I began to shift the scope of my job searches and limiting the side hustles I was investing my time in.

Confused about what I wanted for so long, I had never had a focus. I never figured out how to apply my strengths to my work. That’s why I kept disappointing myself and decided it needed to stop.

I’m here for you.

Helping empower other creators is my passion. 

I focus on helping people find their passion and the courage to support their passion by providing quality and accessible tools, information, and resources.

I work to dispel common myths of our generation, like laziness and lack of initiative. I want to prove the new generations have more to offer than we get credit for. I’m here to make your life start working for you.

I write for single-person operations and online stores or anyone looking to start selling their goods and services. If you’re of another nature, please let me know in the comments your job title/why you’re here!

Welcome to The Artist Journal,

-Joey @ The A/J

The Artist Journal blog circle text logo
Logo for The Artist Journal.

How I Accidentally Started A Brand And You Can Too!

Before writing more great advice about creating content, I wanted to give you a run-down of my background, what I make, and how I got started. I’ve been really excited to share this story, as I feel it’s a great learning experience to share with other creators, whether you’re just starting out, or stuck in a career-rut.

Toadstool Illustrates is the online apparel and print shop I run. I use it to facilitate creative conversation around LGBTQ+ and its’ expression. Toadstool has evolved with me as an artist, being the brand’s third iteration it has become exactly what I set out to do when I first officially opened up shop in October 2016.

But back when I started, that wasn’t my plan or even my intention. I actually had no idea of what I wanted other than “I want to make stuff and make an impact”. In the beginning I mistook that for something else…


How I got started.

The patches all started in 2015.

I was in college for Environmental Technology and found there weren’t any active environmentalists or other activists among my peers. I additionally found that even working for the government I couldn’t make in impact. It was extremely disheartening.

While in college I worked for a summer at a popular craft store, and was doing a lot of sewing and clothing alterations. I had piles of scraps piling up because I just couldn’t bear to throw it all in the trash. 

Table covered in scattered bobbins of thread, yarn, and other sewing supplies in a green cutting board.
Photo by Vladimir Proskurovskiy on Unsplash

Weeks go by and I’m still wondering what to do with all of these scraps. They appeared to be nothing but a pile of shredded denim and bleached t-shirt arms. I decided I would cut them into squares, as large as I could, and noticed they were all coming out at similar sizes. I still couldn’t figure out a use for them.

I am suddenly struck with these questions: can I make an impact by spreading messages? Can messages spread via the things you wear? Of course, that’s what brand logos and tattoos are for, but wouldn’t it be better if you could spread multiple messages at the same time? This and many similar thoughts led me to do some brainstorming.

After doing a little research, I decided hand-made punk patches were the perfect way to start. Even better, this idea allowed me to recycle over 90% of my scrap fabric that was piling up around my workspace! My patches are now all hand-painted on recycled scrap fabric.

I’m inspired by LGBTQ+ issues, and Transgender rights specifically, as well as other humanitarian ideals and sex-positive humour. I try not to take myself too seriously when it come to my patches and pins; they’re meant to be conscientious, but still fun.


About my pins.

I started collecting pins and buttons when I was a child. It was the early 2000’s, but my bags and lanyards were totally decked out like it was 1988. 

Fast-forward 15 years and I’m making my own buttons.

After the success of my patches in mid-2016, I was able to invest in new merchandise: buttons! I was so excited to take this next big step into new territory. 

I found the ideas and motivations behind my patches — that were too colourful and complex for fabric painting — easily translated into these tiny buttons. In the beginning I couldn’t afford a press and had to outsource production to other local makers.

After about 2 years I was finally able to buy my own button press!

Since then, I have been having fun helping other artists and creative businesses with custom button pressing and design services.

I include the first 20 buttons in the base fee to do my best to help out; I know starting off can be tough and buttons are great way to dabble into new merchandise.

I personally started with handing mine out for free at in-person events, which I feel really helped my online performance. I began working small craft fairs and art shows with them in about April 2017. By October people remembered me and were coming back to buy again!

Artists use them to experiment with turning their art into a physical medium. I’ve been told they’re also great when you want to expand your price range as a seller. 

My latest and biggest project so far would be my Sword & Shield Enamel pin set.

My LGBTQ enamel pin set was in the works for over a year. I still remember thinking — over 2 years ago at my first Hamilton Pride festival — about how I wanted to contribute to my community and how I didn’t think I could.

I definitely didn’t know at the time it would be with my designs. Giving people a unique way of showing their transgender identity was not the initial intention, but with a more neutral-masculine design and colour pallet my pin was a stark contrast to most of the other all-black geometric designs flooding the search results.

My main concern was that I love our flags’ colours, but didn’t feel comfortable being decked out in pastel garb (and got the consensus that other trans-masculine folx out there felt the same way). That’s what inspired me to begin sketching.

These enamel pins were meant to help bridge the gap between the Transgender pride flag colours and the use of original neutral/masculine design.


Text "DO MORE" on an iMac screen on top of a minimalist office desk.
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

So, that’s my Etsy shop story.

Don’t leave thinking this entire article a big flex. It’s not, it’s for you to know I speak from years of real experience and about a metric tonne of books. I will be creating a 2020 reading list to help you get in a more creative and productive mindset to start your year off right. Let me know if that’s something you would look forward to, or any book recommendations you may have for me!

Until then, I hope you read through my last article where I talk about How To Use Your Doubts and Fears To Build And Motivate Your Business Part 2. If you missed Part 1 of that series, it’s important you go there first!

If you want to read some Etsy Shop tips I’ve gained through my experience go read How To Run Your Etsy Shop From Only Your iPhone And Increase Your Sales! Stay tuned for the next Artist Journal by following on Facebook or Instagram.

-Joey @ The A/J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.